Learning Dutch: 7 questions answered

So you’re about to take the plunge and delve into the scary world of learning Dutch? Chances are, you probably have a few questions, or you want to know what stages you’ll have to go through to get there.

Most people have the same questions in mind before learning Dutch, and we’ve done you the favour of collecting them all in this handy list. So, without further ado, let’s get down to it! Here are seven things you need to know before learning Dutch.

1. Is learning Dutch hard?

Some people say that learning Dutch is easy, and other people insist that it’s hard. The truth is, it all depends on several factors:

  • If you’re fluent in English, or German, or both (this is a massive help, as there are many similarities)
  • If you’re fluent in more than one language (there’s research to suggest you pick up languages faster if you are)
  • If you can pronounce those terrible, guttural gghhhhhhh sounds.

There are a few reasons why learning Dutch may be hard:

  • The pronunciation can be tricky as hell for some people *cough* most people *cough*
  • The order of the words can be mind-boggling
  • Dutch people will always be better at speaking English than you are at Dutch, so they’ll quickly switch if they sense you’re insecure.

However, some aspects of learning Dutch may also be easy:

  • Over 1,500 Dutch words are in the English dictionary — meaning, you already know around 1,500 Dutch words!
  • Dutch words are also present in many other languages, so you may find you know even more;
  • Believe it or not, it is possible to learn Dutch for free, you just have to be dedicated.

All in all, learning Dutch certainly isn’t easy, and it’s not something you’re going to learn overnight. Just try not to get too hung up on whether you think it’s going to be hard or not. And don’t worry too much about the whole de/het thing.

Learning Dutch has its trials and tribulations — but you’ve got this. Image Credit: Unsplash

2. Is Dutch similar to German?

In short: yes. Dutch is very similar to German, so if you speak German, you’ll definitely spot the similarities as soon as you start learning. Lots of words are the exact same in German as they are in Dutch, and many others only have slight differences.

READ MORE | Pimp your German: Tips for learning Dutch

However, do keep in mind that the Dutch tend to get offended when you tell them that their language is similar to German, so it’s best to keep that small fact to yourself. It’s similar, but it’s still a different language — kind of like if you speak Spanish, then Italian isn’t that far from your comfort zone.

Note: Grammatically, Dutch is somewhat easier. So if you’re German learning the Dutch lingo, then you’re probably going to find this a relief — or not. 🤔

3. Do you need Dutch if you speak English?

In theory, no. Plenty of people get around just fine with speaking English in the Netherlands. It’s also common practice to find an English-speaking job. But if you think you’ll be staying in the Netherlands for a few years, why not learn the language? There are a couple of things you’ll be missing out on if you just stick to English, so getting those Dutch skills going might just be worth it:

Speaking Dutch and work

Sure, you might have managed to score yourself an English-speaking job, but chances are, if you want to climb the ranks, then Dutch is going to be necessary. If you learn Dutch, it will also broaden your career prospects, as you’ll quickly qualify for so many more jobs. If you are looking for a complete career change, speaking Dutch will also help immensely.

READ MORE | Speaking Dutch at work: your guide to workplace idioms in the Netherlands

Before we continue, you should definitely check out these untranslatable Dutch words — they’re always worth knowing (as if the language in general wasn’t baffling enough). 😵

Socialising and speaking Dutch

To truly fit into any society, learning the language is the thing to do. Not only is it polite (because hey, you’re living in their country and all), but it’s also paramount if you want to truly fit into the culture. You will be able to communicate with everyone, and they will be able to communicate with you. It’s a no-brainer, really.

READ MORE | Like a native: 21 ways to elevate your everyday Dutch phrases

4. Can you learn Dutch just by watching TV?

yepp! Many people do it like this, although admittedly, it’s probably best to do this alongside your own studies or Dutch classes. If you do choose to incorporate TV into your Dutch journey, it’s smart to switch things up every now and then: watch TV in your own language with Dutch subtitles, and then watch Dutch programmes with your language as the subtitles.

READ MORE | Things people ask when you say you’re learning Dutch

A good thing about Dutch TV is that dubbing is not a popular concept, so you’ll have a good chance to practice your Dutch skills undisturbed by English.

Relax and learn a new language at the same time? Win-win if you ask us! Image: Depositphotos

Oh, and as a bonus: if you speak English (which you presumably do, since you’re reading this article), then you’re already in luck. British and American television channels are widely watched in the Netherlands, so it’s the perfect time to start reading the subtitles! 👓

5. Are there any sounds that are hard to pronounce?

Oh dear, a simple “yes” would be an understatement. If your language involves a lot of gghhhhh sounds and rolling letters, then you’ll be a natural at learning Dutch. If not (and let’s face it, that applies to most of us), then you’re really going to have to practice. I’m a Brit with no language skills and no rolling letters, and it took me six months just to pronounce words such as “gezellig“, “Scheveningen“, and “Groningen properly.

READ MORE | Tongue twisters to trick your tongue into talking Dutch

Sounds gross, but the best way to practice is to try to bring some phlegm into the back of your throat and gargle as if you were going to spit it out, whilst saying the word. It sounds awful, but you’ll soon get used to saying it naturally (without sounding all weird and phlegmy).

6. Do Dutch people speak English?

Yes! In fact, apart from native English-speaking countries, they’re frequently ranked as having the best English language skills in the world. The thing is, this can make it hard to learn Dutch, as you’ll find that our dear Dutchies will switch to English once they hear us struggling.
It saves time and makes life easier — but persevere! Stick with the Dutch if you want to practice, even if they switch to English.

Simply pretend you don’t speak English! Image: Depositphotos

One advantage to their great English skills is that it makes learning Dutch easier (in terms of finding good English material, teachers, and whatnot). Just make sure not to take it for granted and give up on your Dutch language journey.

7. Is there any way I can learn Dutch for free?

Aha! You’re in luck here. Yup, there are a few ways to learn Dutch for free. This is definitely one of the things to know before you learn Dutch — it can be quite expensive, but there are plenty of ways to learn Dutch completely for free. 🦸‍♀️🦸‍♂️

Learning Dutch for free can be both fast and easy if you put your mind to it! Of course, how long it takes to learn Dutch depends on your own situation and motivation.

READ MORE | How to learn Dutch: the ultimate guide (by people who learned!)

So, there you have it. Once you’ve mastered all the weird sounds, you’ll be well on your way to spitting out Dutch words left, right, and centre. Good luck! 🍀

What tips do you have for learning Dutch? Are there any other things to know before starting? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2018 and was updated in October 2022 for your reading pleasure. 

Emma Brown
Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

Liked it? Try these on for size:

What do you think?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related posts

Latest posts

Dutch Quirk #71: Have impossible narrow and steep stairs in their houses

Anyone who's visited a Dutch house before will recognise a few distinct traits: open curtains for everyone to see, birthday calendars in the toilets,...

The Dutch are about to launch hundreds of FREE distribution points for menstrual products

Hoera for menstruaters in the Netherlands! The Dutch government has given a big fat thumbs up to free tampons and sanitary towels, which will...

A guide to 11 beautiful national parks in the Netherlands

Oh, national parks! Are you an avid walker and looking for somewhere in the Netherlands to enjoy the great outdoors? Here's a list of...

It's happening

Upcoming events

The latest Dutch news.
In your inbox.